MOVIE REVIEW: Strangerland

Director: Kim Farrant
Writers: Michael Kinirons, Fiona Seres
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving

A family in a small town in the Australian outback has its world turned upside down when their children go missing.  What seems like the perfect family has hidden secrets and tensions are starting to run high as they are new to the area.  The 15-year-old daughter is heavily testing how far she can push her parents, and is highly sexually active.  This seems to have caused enough problems in the place where they used to live, and ended up in them moving.  The young boy can’t sleep at night, like myself, and goes for long night walks in order to tire himself out, very unlike me.  One night both children go for a walk and are not seen again.

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Nicole Kidman plays the mother and Joe Fiennes plays the father, both giving the better performances of their careers.  I have to point out now that the performances here are excellent.  Kidman is emotionally unbalanced and you feel that at any point she will break, you feel that if things were going well she would be the best Mother on the planet, but it’s never going to end that way.  Fiennes plays the closed off father, something is bubbling underneath and as the story progresses we find out why.  The actors playing the children do their jobs with maturity that is seldom seen in stars this young.  Hugo Weaving plays the police detective charged with finding the children and unearthing the truth that this family so desperately wants to hide.  It’s always great to see him when he’s just playing a normal guy with massive flaws.  There are supporting characters who touch the family in more ways than you can imagine.

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The story of missing children in a family that is emotionally unbalanced is one that provides a good amount of entertainment.  My problem with the film is that there are too many arty shots of the outback and not enough character development or storytelling.  The characters are good, and there is a lot of back story there to tell that is just glanced over rather than delved into.  It seems that the film makers made some decision to have a lot of pointless aerial shots of the outback, as though they got a gift of a camera drone and wanted to run down the batteries each day.  There are points in the story that you are just getting your teeth into something and then we break off to have another shot that we don’t need.  Painting the outback as a backwards time in Australia’s history to me would be fine if this was set back in the 90’s.

I like Kidman and feel as though she makes terrible choices when it comes to roles, I won’t launch into the Bewitched rant that I normally go into when I talk about her, but my therapist says I’m getting over it now.

Strangerland is a missing kids picture that puts too much emphasis on pointless shots of the deserts and outback around the town.  If it had cut these down and placed more importance on the numerous characters that could have lifted this to one of the more compelling dramas of the year.  I would happily watch this again, but think that I would prefer to watch it at home rather than going to the cinema to see it again.  Some films are better enjoyed on blu-ray or DVD than paying the higher prices of the cinema.

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